An Analysis of Silvia Plath's Poem Daddy

“Daddy” is a poem written by an American poet called Sylvia Plath in 1962. Nevertheless, the poem was published posthumously in 1965. So powerful is the style and form of “Daddy” that it has called for critical review by different critics. The poem is about a young woman subjected to domination by the memory of her dead father, and she is struggling to get rid of this domination. In stanza two line one; she says “Daddy, I have had to kill you”. This line is struggling to free herself from the obsessive image of her father. The poem depicts the issues the speaker has with her father and how these issues have affected her life. One of the dominant subject that runs through the poem is that of death, the death of speaker’s father and how it has traumatized her throughout her life. However towards the end, the speaker gains power over her memories and overcome them. In a nutshell, she manages to set herself free as told in the last line of the poem. She tells her Daddy that she is through which implies freedom.

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The poet Silvia Plaths who doubles up as the persona in this poem shows the intense emotions she experienced with her late husband and father. Plath talks about her father who passed on when she was still young. “You died before I had time…” During this time, the speaker used to adore her father and replaced him with a husband who was more like the same in character. As Plath grew over the years, she came to understand the personalities of these men. In this poem, therefore, she embarks on illustrations of feelings of anger and resentment towards them through the use of rich imagery and tone. “Daddy” has been applauded by lovers of poetry because of its richness in style especially the use of imagery. The poem in other words, I can say is about a complex relationship between a father and child.

In an effort to bring out the themes in the poem clearly, Plaths make use of vivid imagery. In this case, she uses metaphors and similes in throughout the poem. The color black she uses in “Daddy” is a representation of oppression and constraint which seems to conjure well with the image of the shoe in which she has lived in during the time of Nazi rule. It could also reflect the relationship she had with her father, which was much, constraining.

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The use of the word shoes and feet are strong metaphors that recur throughout the poem. For instance, in the second and the third line, the speaker compares herself with the foot that lives in a shoe, the shoe in this being her father. The shoe which protects foot, also traps and smoothers the same foot. The shoe is latter referred to as a boot when it is realized that the father was a Nazi. She says, “I thought every German was you” (29). In line 34 and 35, Plaths refers her father as a Pollack and calls herself a Jew. This tells us that she never had an opportunity to embrace her nationality and is annoyed about her separation with the father. The metaphor of the “barbed wire” has been used by the poet to illustrate how the speaker in the poem could not speak to the father.

In stanza nine, the speaker compares her father to Hitler, she says, “your neat mustache and your Aryan eye, bright blue Panzer-man” (43). Plaths says that her father was not God but a swastika whom she has always been scared of. In fact, in line 53 and 54, not only does the speaker compares her father to Hitler, but to the devil, as well. All this in a nutshell is used by the poet to shed some light on the effects of the holocaust.

I will also argue that the telephone that is “off at the roof” implies lack of voice by the persona. The persona feels that she cannot speak as she says “the tongue stuck in my jaw” This inability to speak, however, is overcome when the black telephone is cut off at the roof. Perhaps we can argue that it marks the end of the father’s oppressive nature after his death. Furthermore, the images of the body parts strewn together throughout the poem is a representation of bodies piled at concentration camps.

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The poem utilizes irregular rhyme scheme since it appears not to flow smoothly because of its division into different parts. The sound ‘oo’ rhyme but it appears there is not a regular pattern. Perhaps we can assert that this short lines and lack of regularity explains Plaths life characterized by sadness. This short lines full of imagery seems to overpower rhyme scheme in the poem.

The tone of the poem is that of outrage. It comprises both of adult outrage, which sometimes flashes, back to childhood. For instance, as a child, she says, “I have always been scared of you” this changes later into strong woman. She asserts, “Daddy I am finally through” which illustrates the power she has yielded over her fathers memories.

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